In other words, pets are often the forgotten victims of an economy gone south. And Anne Davis wants to make sure that humans remember and help them. When the economy began turning down in 2008, she created Don’t Forget the Pets, a year-long drive to collect kibble, canned food, bird seed, hamster pellets, fish flakes and all forms of pet food.
“We were seeing them abandoned at every shelter in the state, from horses to kittens,” said Davis, the Executive Director and President of Animal Advocacy Alliance, noting that several shelters — including the one in Draper City — have been inundated with drop-offs in the last year.
“Losing their homes and trying to find rental units that allow pets is very difficult,” Davis continued. Before starting the food drive, she said that the alliance invited dog owners who had to move into these units to attend free training classes, in hopes that a certificate of “good behavior” would convince landlords to let the dogs stay with their tenants. When the classes didn’t yield the hoped for results, Davis said the alliance began focusing more on collecting pet food. After Associated Foods gave them a palate of dog food, they were off and running.
Currently, the alliance collects and distributes all varieties of pet food to a number of community pantries, including Crossroads Community Center, Catholic Community Services and Hildegard’s Pantry. They also make and distribute pet food to elderly and disabled people, many of them living in HUD-subsidized housing and who lack money and the ability to leave their homes to shop for food. HUD’s rules, Davis noted, encourage tenants to have an animal because “it extends their lives, and gives them something to live for.”
However, the lack of pet food in the kits these tenants were receiving wasn’t helping either human or pet live well.
“We found they were feeding pets from their [food bank] kit before feeding themselves, so neither the human or the pet was getting the nutrition they needed,” she said.
The alliance also has a list of people who have animals and regularly contacts them to see if they are in need of food. She estimates that about 10 people call them regularly.
“It’s rewarding to me to see it’s going to someone who can’t go out and buy food, that we can provide for them,” she said.
Last year, the alliance collected over 10,000 pounds of food. With the recession holding out and unemployment up across the country, Davis said she expects the need to keep increasing. To help meet it, she said she is asking pet “box” stores like Pet Co. and PetSmart to donate items they are planning to throw away, and she is asking Dan’s Foods to set up donation bins in their stores.
“It does encourage their revenue in [the pet aisle] by being there,” she noted.
She also hopes that Utahns will get creative and competitive in collecting food.
“We’d love to see businesses compete against each other [to collect food], or to have a business take a bin from us [and ask employees] to donate as some form of service project,” she said. While a number of businesses have risen to the challenge, Davis hopes that gay businesses—and bars especially—will come on board en masse.
“The gay community couldn’t be better for something like this,” she said. “[Pets] are our babies. Our animals are our babies, and in some cases that’s the only “offspring” that we’ll have. I see them doted as if they were children. They love you more than anything.”
Those who want to send monetary donations to the alliance will soon be able to do so through a Paypal button on its Web site, henryslaw.com (named for the dog whose shocking abuse case prompted the upgrading of Utah’s animal cruelty penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony). People can also send checks to AAA of Utah, 1351 Wasatch Dr., Salt Lake City UT, 84108, with a note explaining that it is for the food drive.
And those who want to donate food need only email Davis at [email protected] or call her at (801) 347-3348 to arrange a pickup.
“I’m willing to go anywhere,” said Davis.